Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mouse Killer Stabs Partner

A 30 year old man whose barbarous tendencies had cost him his job a few years earlier ended up being hanged after he killed his partner when she renewed her acquaintance with an ex lover.

In the 1850s Thomas Edwards worked as a gas fitter in Liverpool, but was dismissed from his employment after he was caught roasting a mouse alive over a burner on his employer's premises. He then joined the army and went to Crimea, although his regiment did not see any action.

On his return to Liverpool he resumed a relationship with Isabella Tonge, who according to the Liverpool Mercury kept a 'disreputable house' in a court off Norman Street on London Road. They had two children who died in infancy and Edwards worked as a jobbing butcher, fetching meat from the abattoir and aking it to shops. He didn't drink and begged Tonge not to make a living from the streets, as he felt he could earn enough to keep the two of them.

In November 1862 a man named Thomas Sullivan, a former lover of Tonge's who had been away doing penal servitude for robbery returned to Liverpool. He went straight to Norman Court and immediately resumed intimate relations with Tonge, who didn't hide the fact from Edwards.

On the evening of 26th November Edwards returned to the house at about 7pm and was told by another lodger that Sullivan and Tonge had been out since noon. Edwards went out for some ale and rum, his first alcohol for four years, which he drank before falling asleep on the sofa. At 2am the couple returned and Sullivan told Edwards it was no business of his where they had been, but the three of them sat up for some time on friendly terms, along with the lodger Jane Wilson.

To avoid any awkward situations Tonge suggested that the two men slept upstairs with the women downstairs. All parties were agreeable to this but Edwards came back down soon afterwards and carried out a frenzied attack on Tonge, stabbing her nineteen times in the neck and breast. As Tonge desperately tried to defend herself with a poker, Wilson tried to intervene and was stabbed in the arm, but her screams of 'murder' were heard by passers by who shouted for the police. Sullivan was awoken by the commotion and came downstairs, to which Edwards reacted by stabbing him in the thigh.

Edwards left the property but inexplicably came back shortly afterwards to change. While he was leaving again a police constable arrived and Edwards invited him in to see his 'work.' The officer was greeted with the sight of Tonge, who was barely alive, lying on the floor. Edwards was taken into custody while Tonge and Sullivan were taken to the Royal Infirmary.

As he being taken to the Bridewell Edwards said he had stabbed Tonge to get revenge and hoped that she was dead. On arrival he told the keeper that if Tonge survived and he was transported as a punishment, then he would return on his release to finish her off. Edwards claimed he gave her all his earnings but she was still unfaithful to him, and he had warned her the day before of his intentions if she continued seeing Sullivan. One of the wounds had punctured Tonge's lung and there was very little chance of survival and she died on 2nd December as a direct result of that injury.

Tonge had been able to make a deposition in which she said that she had been keeping Edwards by prostitution and he threatened to kill her if she didn't give this up. On the night of the murder she claimed he had asked for money and she refused to give any, leading to the stabbing.

Edwards showed little interest in the impending court proceedings, showing a resigned acceptance to his fate. When asked if he had anything to say before sentence of death was passed he said there was little point. There was little doubt about his guilt given he subsequently stated his intention to kill, but the jury did recommend mercy on the grounds of the provocation caused by the relationship between Sullivan and Tonge.

Whilst in prison Edwards remained remarkably calm given what was coming, and chatted happily with the turnkeys. However when the Home Secretary refused to commute the sentence to life imprisonment his mood changed and he spent much more time reading the bible and praying. His mother had her final tearful farewell with him on Friday 2nd January, the day before the execution was due to take place. On the same day he executioner Calcraft hanged a 70 year old man who had killed his wife in Worcester, before heading up to Kirkdale to spend the night at the gaol.

On the morning of the execution the build up was quite low key, with only 500 estimated to be in attendance at 11.30am, half an hour before it was due to take place. Suddenly though, according to the Liverpool Mercury, 'hundreds of wretched looking men and women, and ragged children', were making their way up Scotland Road and Vauxhall Road towards Kirkdale. By noon there were about 10,000 present as Edwards took his place on the scaffold, saying 'Lord Have Mercy Upon Me' three times before the bolt was drawn. His body remained hanging for an hour before being buried within the precints of the prison.

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